How Do I Become a College Professor?

College ProfessorLooking at how to become a college professor? Whether you are a current college student or looking towards your future, you might dream of working with students. Professors teach courses, grade papers and meet with students outside of the classroom, but they also conduct research and write papers on their own time. You typically need a Ph.D or a terminal degree in your field to work as a college professor, but the education you need depends on the school.

Terminal Degree

A terminal degree is the highest degree that you can earn in your field of study. Most programs offer a Ph.D, but some programs end with a MBA, MPH or a similar degree. Some topics end with a Master of Science or a Master of Arts degree, and other programs are so small and specialized that people generally use a Master’s degree as a terminal degree. For example, there are only a few schools in the country that offer a Ph.D in Historic Preservation, and most schools hire professors with a Master’s degree, because doctorate holders are so rare.

Do You Need a Terminal Degree

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, you need a doctoral degree or a terminal degree to work at most four-year private and public colleges. Community colleges, vocational schools and junior colleges often hire professors with a Master’s degree. The competition for those jobs is high, and as there are more applicants than positions, you might find that a higher level degree sets you apart from your competition. Private colleges and universities also hire those with a Master’s degree on a part-time basis and for adjunct faculty positions. These positions usually do not come with any job stability, but the positions do help you get your foot in the door and gain some experience.

Gaining Experience in the Field

If you want to become a college professor, you need to gain field experience in addition to earning a college degree. Field experience differs based on your field of study, but it can include working as a teaching or research assistant during graduate school or working full-time. Some adjunct faculty members maintain full-time positions and teach one or two classes a semester. Most colleges will not hire recent college graduates, unless you can demonstrate that you gained experience through internships and jobs off campus.

Publishing in Your Field

Depending on your field, you might find that you need to publish in your field to become a college professor. Those specializing in mathematics, psychology, sociology, history and other fields conduct a large amount of research and write books and papers that they publish in leading scholarly journals. Some professors started publishing in college or graduate school under the guidance of a professor in their program, while others get attention after publishing the thesis or doctorate project they completed.

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College professors do more than just foster the growth and development of students. They create schedules, grade homework and tests, create tests and work with students on a one on one basis. Professors also research and write papers and books on topics within their fields of study, and some even write their own textbooks. To become college professor, you must have some type of advanced college degree, including a Ph.D or a terminal Master’s degree in your subject.